Candidate backed by Tea Party favored in Texas GOP Senate primary runoff

The Tea Party movement is on the cusp of a major Senate victory in Texas, where former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R) appears to have the upper hand against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) heading into Tuesday’s runoff election.

Cruz led Dewhurst by 10 points in a survey released Monday by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, a sign of continued momentum for the onetime underdog. In the first round of voting in late May, Dewhurst bested Cruz by 11 points. Neither candidate got the required majority at that time, necessitating the runoff. The winner is favored to be the state’s next senator.

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Two of the deep-pocketed outside spending groups that have spent heavily to boost Cruz were already celebrating on Monday. Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) Senate Conservatives Fund sent out an email to supporters saying, “Cruz has overcome incredible odds and is now poised for victory on Tuesday” and has “all the momentum we could hope for.”

The fiscally conservative Club for Growth sent a memo Monday morning touting its efforts in the race, pointing out that it spent $5.5 million on Cruz’s behalf, four-fifths of the total outside spending to help him, and bundled nearly $1 million to his campaign. That money has helped Cruz stay competitive on the airwaves, though he was still outspent by Dewhurst and his allies in the election.

Dewhurst began the race a heavy favorite. He is well-known statewide after nearly a decade as lieutenant governor, and his enormous personal wealth meant he could self-fund a campaign in the expensive state. But despite spending nearly $25 million of his own money on the race, including $8 million in the final two weeks, it appears he will fall short.

Aside from the outside groups helping Cruz, a bevy of high-profile conservatives have supported his campaign. In the last week alone Cruz has stumped with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and DeMint. He also spoke alongside Glenn Beck and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) at an event hosted by the Tea Party-affiliated FreedomWorks at the massive American Airlines Center in Dallas. Cruz spent Monday off the campaign trail, focused on doing television interviews.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has been Dewhurst’s main surrogate. A number of top Dewhurst campaign hands are veterans of Perry’s races, and the two have appeared together multiple times on the campaign trail in recent days, meeting with veterans on Monday in San Antonio before heading to Dallas to meet with former Mayor Tom Leppert (R), who finished third in the first round of Senate voting and endorsed Dewhurst.

Dewhurst, who is out with commercials touting Perry’s support and has the backing of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), has sought to rally social conservatives. He stopped by an Austin Chick-fil-A Monday morning to stand by the chain, which has drawn fire from the left because its owner came out strongly against gay marriage.

“Marriage is between one man and one woman and … in Texas we don’t try to be politically correct,” said Dewhurst at the restaurant.

That approach might not be enough, however. The PPP poll showed Dewhurst leading among older voters but Cruz dominating among younger ones and those who self-identified with the Tea Party movement — and also showed those voters were the most excited about heading to the polls. Polls close at 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday.